Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of Marfan Syndrome

The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand
Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of
Marfan Syndrome
These guidelines were originally developed by Dr Lesley Ades and members of the
Cardiovascular Genetic Diseases Council. Revision
Revi sion of this guideline was coco - ordinated by Dr
Lesley Ades.
The guidelines were reviewed by the Continuing Education and Recertification
Recer tification Committee
and ratified at the CSANZ Board meeting held on Friday, 25 th November 2011.
2011 .
1. Clinical Characteristics
1.1 Definition and prevalence
Marfan syndrome (MFS) is an autosomal dominant connective tissue disorder involving the
cardiovascular, skeletal and ocular systems, the integument, lungs and dura. Cardinal manifestations
include aortic aneurysm and dissection, ocular lens dislocation and long bone overgrowth. In 90-93%
of cases, MFS is caused by mutations in FBN1. Mutations in a second gene, TGFBR2, have been
shown to cause MFS, designated MFS2. Current early estimates quote this gene as responsible for up
to 10% of all MFS cases. The prevalence of MFS is at least 1/5,000 and 25% of cases are sporadic.
Penetrance is extremely high. Isolated cases with no family history are often more severely affected.
Several examples of “homozygous” MFS have been reported. Gonadal mosaicism is rare (probably
<1%). Compound heterozygosity at the FBN1 locus is very rare.
Clinical presentation
MFS demonstrates both intra- and inter-familial variability. Each child of an affected parent has a
50% chance of inheriting a disease-causing gene mutation, with males and females equally at risk.
Clinically affected individuals often present with tall stature and dolichostenomelia (decreased
upper:lower segment ratio; arm span: height ratio >1.05), but may present with lens dislocation, aortic
dilatation or with skeletal manifestations such as pectus deformities and/or scoliosis. MFS is usually
associated with normal intelligence, unless due to deletion of FBN1 and additional neighbouring
Clinical diagnosis
The diagnosis of MFS is based on recently revised Ghent criteria (Loeys BL et al. The revised Ghent
nosology for the Marfan syndrome. J Med Genet 2010;47:476-485), which places more weight on the
cardiovascular manifestations and in which aortic root aneurysm and ectopia lentis are the cardinal
clinical features. In the absence of any family history, the presence of these two manifestations is
sufficient for the unequivocal diagnosis of MFS. In the absence of either of these two, the presence of
a bonafide FBN1 mutation or a combination of “systemic manifestations” is required. For the latter, a
new scoring system has been designed, that guides diagnosis when aortic disease is present, but
ectopia lentis is not. In this revised nosology, FBN1 testing, although not mandatory, has greater
weight in the diagnostic assessment. Special considerations are given to the diagnosis of MFS in
children and alternative diagnoses in adults. The new guidelines are predicted to delay a definitive
diagnosis of MFS in some individuals, but will decrease the risk of premature diagnosis or
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Diagnostic dilemmas arise because of inter- and intra-familial variability. Many features of MFS (e.g.
mitral valve prolapse, scoliosis) are also common in the general population, or may occur in other
connective tissue disorders. Many manifestations are age-dependent. The clinical criteria in the
revised Ghent nosology cannot always be applied to children, particularly those with sporadically
occurring disease. Known associations with early death include new mutation, family history of
dissection at <5cm (aortic root diameter), male sex, and emergency surgery where the death rate is five
times higher than in elective surgery. Pregnancy bears a 1% risk of fatal complication; this risk
increases with increasing aortic root diameter.
The diagnosis of MFS is largely clinical and pragmatic, based on what can be done to define the
phenotype in any given case. Investigations listed may not be practical for every patient. Wherever
possible, clinical examination should include:
1) AP x-ray of spine for scoliosis of >20° or spondylolisthesis.
2) AP x-ray of pelvis for protrusioacetabulae.
3) Lumbosacral MRI or CT for duralectasia. MRI is not appropriate for anyone with an
indwelling defibrillator. Prevalence figures for duralectasia range from 65-92%. Whilst
usually asymptomatic, it may cause nerve root compression, intracranial hypotension
headaches and may mimic an acute abdominal emergency. Determination of duralectasia has
been shown to establish a diagnosis of MFS under the Ghent criteria in 25% of patients.
4) Ophthalmology examination including slit lamp. Optometry is inadequate.
5) Cardiology evaluation. The abdominal aorta may be involved, although the usual site of
dilatation is the thoracic aorta.
6) Accurate height and weight measurements to allow calculation of body surface area.
7) Use of appropriate nomograms for plotting aortic root dimension. There is unresolved
controversy about this; several different nomograms have been published. Whilst it is unclear
which of these is the most appropriate to use in the paediatric and adult MFS populations, the
Ghent nosology recommends the use of the nomograms established by Roman et al. (Am J
Cardiol 1998;64:507-512).
8) Urine metabolic screen or fasting plasma amino acids (in absence of supplemental pyridoxine)
to exclude homocystinuria for the first person in the family being evaluated for MFS.
9) Chromosome karyotype to exclude Klinefelter syndrome in any individual with predominant
skeletal features.
10) Screening of first-degree relatives with echocardiogram +/- ophthalmological examination.
Family history: A detailed family history and a high level of clinical suspicion are essential.
Family screening: See (9) above.
Differential Diagnosis
MFS is the most common syndromic presentation of ascending aortic aneurysm, but vascular EhlersDanlos syndrome and Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) also have ascending aortic aneurysms, with the
risk of aortic dissection and rupture. Familial segregation of the risk for ascending aortic aneurysm
may occur in the absence of associated systemic findings of a connective tissue abnormality in patients
with familial thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (FTAAD) or bicuspid aortic valve with
ascending aortic aneurysm (BAV/AscAA). LDS features that overlap with MFS, include
arachnodactyly, pectus deformity, scoliosis, duralectasia, and aortic root aneurysm. Cardiovascular
involvement can include congenital heart malformations, but most importantly, patients show
widespread and aggressive vascular disease with arterial tortuosity and a strong predisposition for
aneurysms and dissections throughout the arterial tree. Mutations that cause LDS occur in either of
the two genes that encode the TGF-β receptor (TGFBR1 and TGFBR2). The phenotype designated
LDS-II may mimic the vascular sub-type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (COL3A1 gene), and is
associated with mutations in the TGFBR genes. Mutations in TGFBR2 have been reported in patients
described as having MFS or FTAAD (thoracic aortic aneurysms (prominently of the ascending aorta)
in the absence of systemic vascular disease or features of a connective tissue disorder). There are no
apparent differences between the mutations that cause LDS and those described as causing MFS or
FTAAD. Many of the identical mutations described as causing MFS or FTAAD have been found in
families with LDS-I or LDS-II.
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2. Molecular Genetics
MFS genes
FBN1: DNA diagnostic services for FBN1 testing for MFS and related clinical entities (TGFBR1,
TGFBR2) are available. Prenatal diagnosis is available where a familial mutation is known, but
cannot predict disease severity. For women with MFS in whom a pregnancy is contraindicated, preimplantation genetic diagnosis and surrogacy may be possible.
Genetic screening
Mutation screening of FBN1 should yield a result in up to 97% of MFS patients who meet the Ghent
criteria, and is much lower in those who do not meet the criteria. Only 1-2% of cases are thought to be
due to large deletions; these would not be identified by DHPLC. In the absence of a FBN1 mutation in
a “Ghent positive” case, TGFBR2 screening may be appropriate.
3. Management
Affected individuals
These are best discussed on a case by case basis with an expert in the relevant field.
Cardiac: Serial echocardiographic surveillance is indicated for all affected individuals. Frequency
should be tailored to each individual by their cardiologist. Based on current evidence, the use of ßblockers remains first-line treatment (except where contra-indicated eg asthmatics) in aortic dilatation
in MFS even in young children if a diagnosis of MFS is clear, or if there is a known FBN1 mutation in
a young child without clinical features of MFS but where there are other affected first degree relatives
with a known mutation and aortic root dilatation. There is no published scientific or longitudinal data
to prove that prophylactic ß-blockade prior to the development of aortic enlargement is necessarily of
benefit. When β-blockade is ineffective or contraindicated, verapamil or ACE inhibitors would
constitute appropriate second-line treatment based on the currently available human data. Preliminary
evidence suggests that angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (eg perindopril) may be useful
in MFS. TGFβ antagonism by the angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocker, losartan, was shown to
prevent aortic aneurysm and partially reverse impaired alveolar septation in a mouse model of MFS.
Large multi-centre prospective clinical trials comparing β-blockers with losartan in adult MFS are in
progress (USA). A small number of children with severe aortic dilatation have been treated with
losartan, either alone or in addition to β-blockers, with up to four years of follow-up. These data
demonstrate a significant reduction in aortic root growth. The NHLBI-sponsored Pediatric Heart
Network is currently conducting a study in children and young adults with MFS. MFS mouse models
have shown that the matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor, doxycycline, improved aortic wall architecture
and delayed aortic dissection. It is possible that doxycycline and losartan will show synergistic
Prophylactic aortic root replacement in MFS carries a risk of death of 1-2%. Symptomatic aneurysms
have a much worse prognosis than asymptomatic ones, and should be resected regardless of size.
There is an operative mortality of up to 20% for acute ascending aortic dissection in MFS. MFS
patients who suffer aortic dissection have a significantly reduced long-term survival, reported at 5070% at 10 years. This underscores the importance of prophylactic aortic surgery before aortic
dissection occurs in MFS. Recent guidelines have suggested that prophylactic aortic surgery be
performed in adults with MFS when the aortic root diameter exceeds 5cm. Aortic surgery should also
be considered in MFS when the aortic root exceeds 4.5cm and there is a family history of aortic
dissection, when there is rapid aortic growth (>5-10mm per year), and when significant aortic
insufficiency is present. After surgical resection of an aortic aneurysm, initially yearly evaluation with
CT or MRI is recommended to evaluate for aortic graft pseudo-aneurysm, coronary artery aneurysms
(rare, but may occur some years after Bentall procedure) and coexistent aneurysms in other aortic
segments. The interval between scan could be gradually increased in stable patients as clinically
indicated, interval echocardiography to image the aortic root could be considered in patients with
adequate echocardiographic windows.
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Ocular: Annual ophthalmological examination is indicated for all affected individuals. Removal of
lenses may be indicated if vision is very poor. Intraocular pressure measurement is recommended to
monitor for glaucoma.
Skeletal: Orthopaedic referral may be indicated for progressive scoliosis. Bracing or spinal fusion
may be necessary. In children, x-ray of the wrist may be indicated to assess final predicted height and
the need for referral to an endocrinologist for hormone therapy if final height prediction is
unacceptable. Surgery is possible for severe pectus deformity.
Pulmonary: Spontaneous pneumothorax should be considered in any MFS patient with sudden onset
chest/pleuritic pain, associated dyspnoea or cyanosis. Rarely, emphysematous lung change may occur.
Referral to a respiratory physician for evaluation of pulmonary function may be indicated. A few
MFS patients develop progressive lung disease and may require lung or heart/lung transplantation.
CNS: Intracranial hypotension associated with CSF leak from dural ectasia may be severe and
debilitating, requiring hospitalisation and autologous blood patch for symptomatic relief. Cerebral
imaging may show an apparent Arnold Chiari-type malformation. This is actually downward tonsillar
herniation secondary to low CSF pressure; neurosurgical “decompression” does not ameliorate the
symptoms and should be avoided.
Pregnancy, labour and delivery: Pre-pregnancy counselling should include full discussion of the risks
and benefits of pregnancy and the alternatives (childlessness, tubal ligation, adoption, surrogate
pregnancy). Pregnancies are a high-risk period and should be managed through a “high risk” obstetric
clinic. Dissection occurs most often in the last trimester or early post-partum period. Full assessment
should be performed before pregnancy and include echocardiogram of the heart and entire aorta.
Women with a maximal aortic dimension <4cm are at very low risk for a rapid change in aortic size or
aortic tear during pregnancy or immediately after delivery. Outcomes for women with aortic
diameters of <4cm at the time of delivery are similar for vaginal and caesarean section delivery.
These women have a 1% risk of aortic dissection, endocarditis or congestive cardiac failure during
pregnancy. Women with aortic dimensions >4cm are at greater risk (up to 10% risk of dissection);
this risk increases proportionally to aortic size. Echocardiograms should be performed at least threemonthly during pregnancy. The overall risk associated with aortic measurement of ≥4.5cm is greater
than that associated with a measurement of 4cm. The risk associated with an aortic measurement
>5cm is extreme, and pregnancy is difficult to justify. The risk is lower for pregnancy following
elective aortic root replacement for aortic diameters of ≥4.7cm.
These women require
echocardiographic monitoring of the remaining aorta every 6-8 weeks throughout pregnancy and for 6
months post-partum. Beta-blockade should be continued throughout the pregnancy. Each pregnancy
should be supervised by a cardiologist and obstetrician. Epidural analgesia is recommended for labour
and delivery to maintain stable blood pressure. Involuntary Valsalva manoeuvres should be avoided.
If normal delivery is planned, the second stage should be expedited. Women may labour on their left
side or in a semi-erect position to minimise stress on the aorta. Management of delivery in women
with more significant aortic dilatation (≥4.5cm) remains controversial; caesarean section is often
advised. It may be most prudent to deliver these women by caesarean section without labour using
epidural anaesthesia. Epidural anaesthesia is safe for most women, but is not advised in those with
moderately severe duralectasia because of the risk of spinal CSF leak.
Exercise: Physical education and activity guidelines are available through the National Marfan
Foundation website: Competitive and
collision sports may precipitate aortic dissection or rupture. Static (isometric) exercise and activities
such as weight-lifting, climbing steep inclines, gymnastics and push-ups should be avoided. Dynamic
(isokinetic) exercise increases heart rate and cardiac output but also decreases peripheral resistance.
Patients with a dilated aortic root can participate in certain isokinetic activities but at a decreased level
of intensity. High intensity, competitive sports should be avoided.
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Asymptomatic family members
Annual clinical examination is indicated in asymptomatic family members +/- screening
investigations, depending on the clinical context. If a familial FBN1 mutation has been identified,
predictive testing in children will identify those at risk of MFS and those in whom no annual
surveillance is necessary.
Genetic counselling
The diagnosis of a genetic disorder in a family and the possibility of testing for the disorder raise a
number of issues. Involvement of genetics professionals (clinical geneticists and genetic counsellors)
should be considered. All family members potentially at risk should receive genetic counselling,
lifestyle modification advice and where appropriate, counselling with regard to carrier options.
For Further Information:
Loeys BL et al. The revised Ghent nosology for the Marfan syndrome. J Med Genet 2010;47:476485